Looking for an easy way to grow greens in your house throughout the year, even if you have minimal sunlight? Growing sprouts is easy and only takes a couple of minutes each day to start up and maintain.
Why should you grow sprouts?
Growing sprouts is incredibly easy and it makes a delicious addition to salads, sandwiches, stir frys and other recipes. Plus, it’s something the entire family can enjoy, especially kids. It’s fascinating to see something sprout and grow so quickly.
Sprouts also host a ton of excellent health benefits, and are jam packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, depending on the variety.
And it is something you can grow without having access to a garden, a balcony, or even a bright window. They require no light to germinate, and don’t even need light once they begin to grow.
Is growing sprouts the same as growing microgreens?
No, sprouts are grown without soil in a jar, while microgreens are grown in soil. Growing sprouts is more economical, since you do not need special seed trays, soil or grow lights. They also take less time to grow than microgreens do.
The different types of sprouts
There are many different seeds that can be sprouted. These are the most common:
- Alfalfa – this is the most common. It is a small sprout with a very mild, neutral taste. Great for basically any sprouting use
- Broccoli – these are small, slightly spicy sprouts with lots of antioxidants
- Radish – these sprouts taste spicy, just as you would expect a radish sprout to taste. They are good on salads or any dish where you want a slight kick
- Mung bean – these are the most popular stir fry sprouts, and are commonly referred to as simply “bean sprouts”
- Green pea – crunchy and similar to mung beans, these sprouts are great on sandwiches
- Beet – this has a really cool red color, and has a sweet taste. Great on salads.
They can all be eaten raw, but a lot of them do not stand up to cooking. If you want to cook your sprouts, then you should go with alfalfa, mung bean or broccoli sprouts.
What is the best seed for sprouting?
I like a mix of sprouting seeds myself, for use in salads or on sandwiches. You can often find commercially-available salad or sandwich sprouting mixes.
What equipment do I need to grow sprouts?
- A sanitized mason jar with the ring it comes with. I usually use a wide mouth quart-sized jar.
- A sprouting screen or lid. If you don’t have one available, then a fine mesh fabric also works, such as pantyhose.
- A bowl
- Water, non-chlorinated if possible
How do you grow sprouts?
Before starting, make sure your equipment is well-sanitized, so there is no chance of bacterial contamination.
Add 1-3 tablespoons of sprouting seeds to your jar (1 tablespoon for very small seeds, 2-3 tablespoons for larger seeds, such as mung bean and green pea), and cover seeds with approximately 1 cup of water. Secure a porous lid onto the jar. You can purchase a seed sprouting lid, or any mesh food-safe material, secured down by the metal jar ring. Allow to soak for 1 hour.
Drain the water and invert the jar. Prop it up in a bowl, so that the remaining liquid can drain off. You do not want there to be any standing water in the jar. Place the jar in a cool, dark corner of the kitchen.
Rinse the jar twice a day (once in the morning and once at night) each day for 3-5 days. Larger sprouts, such as green pea and mung bean may need 1-2 days long. If at any point, the jar becomes full, move half of the sprouts to a second jar, or remove them for consumption. The sprouts need proper air flow to avoid bacterial growth.
When the sprouts are done, fill a large bowl with room temperature or cool water, and drop the sprouts into it. The sprouts will sink, while their hulls will float. Skim off the hulls. Drain the water and allow the sprouts to dry for a few minutes. Placing them on a paper towel and patting them dry is best.
Return the sprouts to a clean jar, this time capping them with a solid lid. Place in the fridge for 4-5 days, removing them as needed. Be sure to always use clean hands while handling the sprouts, to avoid contamination.
If any moisture builds up at the bottom of the jar, drain it off, to prolong the sprouts life. If the sprouts smell funky at any point, dispose of them.
Do they need sunlight to grow?
No, they do not. In fact, too much sunlight is often too much for them, because the white part of the sprouts are essentially the roots, which can burn if there are exposed to too much light. A dark corner of the kitchen is a good place to keep your sprouts. If you want, you can put them in a window for the last day or so, to help turn them greener, but indirect sun is best.
Is growing sprouts safe? Will I get sick?
Sprouts are sometimes touted as being unsafe, due to E. coli and salmonella contamination. They are grown in warm, wet conditions that can harbor bacteria. It is important to start with very clean equipment, and always keep your hands clean when rinsing and handling the sprouts.
If you are handling raw meat, or other ingredients that could also harbor bacteria in the kitchen, it is best to keep these away from where the sprouts are growing.
The E. coli and salmonella contamination that occurs commercially is often do to the handling, packaging or contact with animal waste. Ensuring proper cleanliness minimizes the risks.
With that being said, if you are worried that your sprouts may be contaminated, it is best to cook them or dispose of them to avoid food-borne illness.
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Growing Sprouts – A Beginners Guide
- 1-3 tablespoons sprouting seeds make sure they are labeled as specifically for sprouting
- To a quart-sized mason jar, add desired amount of seeds and top it with enough water to cover the seeds. Cap the jar with a seed sprouting screen or mesh food-safe material that water can drain through plus the metal ring that came with the jar. Soak seeds in water for 1 hour.
- Drain water and invert the jar so the remaining liquid can drain. I like to prop my jar up in a bowl.
- Rinse sprouts twice per day with room temperature or cool water (morning and evening), drain water off right away, and then return inverted to the bowl for storage. Repeat for 3-5 days, or until seeds have sprouted.
- If at any point, the jar is almost full, you will want to either divide the sprouts into two jars, or remove some for consumption. You do not want the jar to become overcrowded.
- Do not allow seeds to sit out for more than 5 days, as bacteria can begin to grow. Once ready to serve, rinse sprouts in a bowl to remove the seeds that didn't germinate, along with the seed hulls. Filling a bowl with water often works, since the hulls will float, and the sprouts will sink.
- Drain liquid and place sprouts onto a paper towel to dry them out. Once they are dry, return sprouts to a container. This time, cover with a solid lid, and place in the fridge for 4-5 days. Consume within this time period, or they will begin to go bad. If at any time, there is liquid at the bottom of the storage container, drain it to prolong their shelf life.